Rennie: “You are a joyous, happy force for good” as Scottish equal marriage bill passes first stage

Willie at equal marriage rallyFive years ago, the embryonic Equal Marriage campaign could scarcely imagine that they would get to the point where the Holyrood Parliament would debate, and most likely pass with a stonking majority, a bill legalising its aim.

That they have captured Scotland’s imagination is down to its relentlessly positive, simple campaign, culminating with the It’s Time video. I defy anyone to get to the end of it without smiling.

Tom French, the spokesperson for the campaign, has had to endure some pretty unpleasant, inaccurate, disrespectful challenges during live debates on the media. He is one of my heroes of the year for dealing with such provocation in a very calm, unflappable manner.

Today, the Bill passed its first parliamentary hurdle. Before the debate, a rally took place outside Parliament. I went along with Andrew Brown who writes the widow’s world blog. The weather might have been freezing cold, but the atmosphere was the exact opposite. We sang (although probably best we didn’t attempt the re-written I am who I am on the back page of the song sheet), we chanted, we laughed, we cheered. Oh, and we listened to some politicians, too.

Willie Rennie, pictured here with Arthur’s Seat in the background, told the assembled gathering that they were a “joyous, happy force for good.”

He praised the positive and engaging way the campaign had been conducted.

Four of the five Liberal Democrat MSPs were there. They could not be herded into the same place at the same time, though. This picture shows Alison McInnes with representatives from Stonewall Scotland.

Liberal Democrats only get one speech in Holyrood debates these days and it feel to Jim Hume to express our support for the Bill and talk about our long-standing support for LGBT equality.

It may be no surprise that as Liberal Democrats that we shall be supporting the progress of this Bill through Parliament – it’s our policy and even our constitution states – that we “exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity”.

We even made equal marriage our party policy in 2010 – I believe the first – at least major – party to do so.

We have also inputted a positive response to the consultation which clearly states that we believe that Scotland can prove to the world that it is one of the fairest and equal places to live.

Alison Mcinnes equal marriage rally croppedGood stuff, despite the use of the word “inputted.”

There was a promising sign that the issue of the spousal veto for transgender people would be reconsidered by the Government before the next Parliamentary stage.

The Bill has just passed its Stage 1 vote by 98 votes to 15 with 5 absentions. I’d like to think we could get to at least 100 of the 129 members supporting it before the end of this.

I was very proud of my Parliament today – and, actually, my favourite speech, the one which moved me to tears was made by Conservative leader Ruth Davidson. She spoke of being raised in a house full of love and how this gave her an admiration for marriage, which she didn’t think would ever be open to her. She then argued that this bill would help the majority of LGBT young people who suffer bullying in school. Tories have made me cry many times in my life, but never for such a good reason.


* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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